Miami has many nicknames, but none describe it better than Magic City. Miami simply has it all: a thriving foodie scene; ever-growing opportunities to enjoy the arts; unrivaled nightlife; beautiful beaches that can be enjoyed year round; cultural diversity as the “gateway to the Americas”; and even a unique history as the only U.S. city founded by a woman. The list could go on. If you find yourself headed to Miami, you’ll quickly understand how it earned its nickname as the Magic City.
Here are the 25 best things to do in Miami, Florida.
Related: 50 Best Places to Travel
Stroll down the Beachwalk in Miami Beach
A trip to Miami would be incomplete without a visit to one of the many beaches, but if you’d like to get in some exercise or simply take a scenic walk, step foot on the Beachwalk. Running the entire length of Miami Beach, the Beachwalk is an eight-mile long pedestrian promenade with mostly paved pathways, though some areas are still sandy, awaiting to be paved.
Explore the Wynwood Arts District
With 50 city blocks covered in murals, Wynwood is home to the highest concentration of street art in the country. Wander around on your own, have an impromptu Instagram photoshoot, or hop on a guided tour to make sure you don’t miss any of the most iconic murals. Wynwood is also full of galleries, shops, restaurants ranging from casual to chic, and tons of bars that make for some of the best nightlife in Miami.
Rub elbows with the rich and famous at Art Basel Miami Beach
Every year in early December, art lovers flock to south Florida for Art Basel Miami Beach. Though the main event is at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where hundreds of galleries showcase the work of over 4,000 artists, the spirit of Art Basel spreads throughout the entire city. In a week now known as Miami Art Week, celebrities, art aficionados, or those simply looking to party will find satellite fairs, glitzy events, and exclusive parties happening all over Miami.
Spend the afternoon at Pérez Art Museum Miami
For a year-round taste of Miami’s art scene, head downtown to Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), where you’ll find an impressive collection of 20th and 21st century art that emphasizes Miami’s cultural diversity and celebrates works from the Latin American, Caribbean, and African diaspora. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon admiring the more than 3,000 pieces in the permanent collection, as well as the many rotating exhibits. Be sure to refuel with a meal at Verde, the museum’s onsite casual eatery overlooking Biscayne Bay.
Grab a rooftop cocktail in Brickell
Brickell may be the financial center of downtown Miami, but it’s also home to plenty of high-end shopping, fine dining, and some of the best rooftops. With views of the Miami skyline, Miami River, and the bay, you almost can’t go wrong with any rooftop bar or restaurant in Brickell. Local favorites include Sugar and Area 31.
Shop till you drop at Lincoln Road Mall
This pedestrian-only road is lined with hundreds of stores, restaurants, and sidewalk cafes. It’s also a quintessential South Beach experience complete with its own Art Deco architecture and nearby Española Way that looks like a small slice of Spain.
Admire the Art Deco architecture of South Beach
South Beach may be known for its wild party scene, but fans of the 1920s and 30s should explore the area for its many examples of well-preserved Art Deco architecture. You can practically bump into these buildings all over South Beach, but for a more in-depth look, sign up for a walking tour of the Art Deco District with the Miami Design Preservation League.
Get your geek on at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
Opened in 2017, this 25,000-square-foot facility boasts a state-of-the-art planetarium with an 8K visual system displaying 16 million colors through 3D capable projectors, as well as a 500,000-gallon aquarium with sharks, sting rays, and much more. Both adults and kids alike will be amused.
Say hello to the animals at Zoo Miami
Over 3,000 animals call Zoo Miami their home, including koalas, tigers, and elephants in large open-air exhibits. Beyond admiring these majestic creatures from afar, visitors can interact with some of them through animal feedings and encounters. Zoo Miami also offers educational presentations, children’s activities, character meet-and-greets, and zookeeper talks throughout the day.
Go alligator spotting on an airboat tour through the Everglades
All of south Florida, including Miami, was once a marshy swampland, and the best reminder of that is a trip out to Everglades National Park, where you can spot plenty of alligators, blue herons, and other wildlife in their natural habitat. But the most thrilling way to go gator spotting is on a fast-paced airboat ride just outside of the national park grounds.
Swim, snorkel, or paddle through Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is 95 percent underwater, including the Florida Reef, which is the only living coral barrier reef in the United States. It’s best to explore this park on one of the many boat tours that will take you swimming, snorkeling, or paddling your way through these waters.
Get on the water at Oleta River State Park
Oleta River State Park is another great place to get out on the water. Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the calm, flat waters as you make your way through the mangrove trails. Keep an eye out for marine life like black crabs, mangrove snapper, and manatees. The reward for all your hard paddling work is a beachy area, where you can park your paddles and rest.
Catch a show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Perhaps the crowning jewel of Miami’s arts and culture scene is the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, where you can catch a wide range of shows from Broadway productions and free gospel Sunday events to flamenco festivals, educational talks, and more.
Take a spin on the Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel
Each ride on the Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel lasts anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes as guests are whisked away up to 200 feet above Bayside Marketplace, a popular shopping and dining destination next door to American Airlines Arena. Take in views of Biscayne Bay, Bayfront Park, and the downtown Miami skyline all from the comfort of a fully-enclosed and climate-controlled gondola.
Cheer on the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena
Whether the Miami Heat are having a good season or a rocky one, these three-time NBA champions, along with their team mascot and talented dancers, always put on a show when they’re at home. American Airlines Arena, conveniently located downtown, also often hosts sold-out concerts from major artists, so be sure to check the calendar before your visit.
Root for the Miami Dolphins at the Hard Rock Stadium
If football is more your thing, head to the recently modernized Hard Rock Stadium to catch a Dolphins game. Win or lose, you can at least sit there imagining what it was like to watch Shakira and J. Lo perform there during the 2020 Super Bowl.
Catch a home run ball at the Marlins Stadium
Ok, catching a home run ball is not a guarantee, but rain or shine, baseball fans can watch the Marlins play in a nice climatized environment, thanks to the stadium’s air conditioning and retractable roof.
Have a riverfront meal at The Wharf Miami
Oceanfront dining is obviously a popular option in Miami, but the river that runs through much of downtown and Brickell also has its appeal. At The Wharf, you can grab a laidback meal from one of the many food trucks and wash it down with a drink from the bar. You’ll often find a DJ there to keep the atmosphere lively, along with games like cornhole, ping pong, and Jenga.
Get a taste of Cuban culture in Little Havana
Though Cuban culture is present all throughout Miami, Little Havana is at the heart of it all. You can wander the neighborhood at your own pace, stopping to watch the viejitos (old men) playing dominos in the park, to dance to live music at Ball & Chain, or to refuel with Cuban culinary staples like croquetas and cafecito. Or you could let the experts at Little Havana Walking Tours show you around for an experience focused on the area’s food, culture, and history.
Take a dip in the Venetian Pool
This historic landmark is not your average public swimming pool. It features caves, stone bridges, and waterfalls all carved out of coral rock to create a Venetian-style lagoon. It can get a bit crowded in the summers, but it is the perfect place to cool off.
Pretend you’re in Europe at the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
This Mediterranean-style villa was built in the early 1900s as the winter home of James Deering but now serves as a museum housing centuries-old art. The villa itself is stunning with its Renaissance-inspired architecture and decor, but the most popular feature is just outside with the perfectly-manicured gardens overlooking Biscayne Bay.
Rent a boat for the day
Few things scream Miami quite like renting a boat (captain included) and cruising around the city, wind in your hair, sea salt on your skin. Whether you’re in town with family or on a celebratory trip for a birthday or bachelorette party, there are dozens of rental agencies ready to help you plan the perfect day at sea, complete with iconic photo ops, swim stops, and more.
Enjoy the beach and a history lesson at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
There are plenty of beaches to choose from in Miami, but a trip to Bill Baggs comes with the added bonus of learning about the little-known history of the city’s role in the Underground Railroad. Bill Baggs is also home to a lighthouse that dates back to 1825, making it Miami’s oldest structure. And for those looking for something beyond the usual sand and sea, there are trails for hiking, biking, off-roading on rental quads, kayaking, and more.
Wander through Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Spread out over 83 lush acres, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden immerses visitors in colorful tropical gardens, rainforests, and coastal habitat, with a collection of more than 3,400 species of plants. Throughout the garden’s exhibits, you’ll find tropical fruit, orchids, and an abundance of butterflies.
Grab a meal at one of the many food halls around the city
For indecisive eaters or a group that can’t seem to agree on one place for dinner, Miami has the answer in one of the many, often themed, food halls around the city. Head to 1-800 Lucky in Wynwood for an Asian-inspired meal, The Citadel for international cuisine from the Caribbean to Laos, or a little bit of everything at the Time Out Miami Market.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she’s always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.